Lance Armstrong returns to the wind tunnel

Aerodynamics play a big role in Texan's comeback

Lance Armstrong has started his preparations early for the 2009 season, entering the San Diego Air & Space Technology Low Speed Wind Tunnel for aerodynamic testing a full two months before he did during his last few years racing for Discovery Channel. BikeRadar was there to capture photos and video, and spend time talking with Armstrong and his technical team on an overcast day near the San Diego Airport.

The 37-year-old Texan, fresh off two time trial victories in the Tour de Gruene over the weekend, was looking especially lean and fit for someone who hasn't thrown a leg over a time trial bike since late July 2005. Longtime aerodynamic consultant Steve Hed booked the wind tunnel time on Armstrong's behalf, starting with a baseline of Armstrong's 2005 time trial position and equipment.

The one-hour session, arranged for visiting media, saw Armstrong don his new black Livestrong skinsuit and Nike shoe covers, topped off with a new Giro aero helmet and his ever-present Oakley sunglasses. The hard data (drag coefficient, power) were zeroed out, much to the chagrin of the media crowding the small facility. Representatives from equipment suppliers Trek, SRAM, SRM and Giro were there on Armstrong and Hed's request.

After the media session was over, Armstrong shed light on his reasons for being in the wind tunnel so early compared to years past, saying it made more sense to start from the baseline, then gradually improve his position, based on the three-plus years off the time trial bike. There's also the caveat of having to adapt to new equipment sponsor SRAM, and an aging body.

Look for a full feature on Armstrong's wind tunnel session, including video and interviews with Armstrong, Hed, Trek road brand manager Scott Daubert, SRAM technical advisor Alex Wassmann, and Trek's Astana liaison Ben Coates later this week. 

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